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Lipids are fatty substances in the blood, and include cholesterol and triglycerides. All lipids play important roles throughout the body, but abnormal levels in the blood can cause problems. High levels of lipids may be caused by one or a combination of:
- Diet that has excess calories, usually higher in carbohydrates and fat
- Sedentary lifestyle
High levels of lipids in the blood can contribute to a buildup of plaque in the inside walls of the blood vessels. This build up causes a thickening and hardening of the blood vessel walls known as atherosclerosis. The damaged blood vessels make it difficult for blood to flow freely and in some cases can cause a blockage of blood flow. If the blockage occurs in the heart or brain it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Two types of lipids are cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is used to build cells and hormones. Most of your cholesterol is made inside the body, but some comes from the foods we eat such as dairy products, meat, and fish.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—Often called the "good" cholesterol because it helps to protect against heart disease. HDL may carry other types of cholesterol away from arteries and to the liver. Higher levels of this cholesterol are ideal.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—This is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol because it is more likely to stick to the walls of your blood vessels. High LDL cholesterol levels increases the risk of heart disease.
Abnormal cholesterol levels are sometimes caused by genetic conditions or medications that lead to low HDL o